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Andrea Wolper: The Small Hours

Dan McClenaghan By

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The title of The Small Hours suggests an obvious comparison. Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours was one of those early Capitol Records "concept" albums—a mastepiece, one of the finest three or four vocal sets ever produced—that featured a downtempo, melancholy mood wrapped in some of Nelson Riddle's most subtle arrangements (with strings) on record.

Vocalist Andrea Wolper's second record has a similar mood as the similarly-titled classic, with excellent but spare arrangments on a set of moody, late night tunes—like a saloon singer playing for a spare crowd as closing time nears. And what a delivery! Wolper sounds as if she's singing just for you as the set opens with the classic Rogers/Hart gem "Dancing on the Ceiling," a song also included in the Sinatra disc, incidentally. Wolper's voice—weary, dripping heartache—embraces the guitar/bass accompaniment and the beautiful essense of the classic melody. Hushed at times, smoky, emotion-laden, singing just for you.

The songstress' take on "You and the Night and the Music" has an eerie feeling, with the addition of Lou Marini's flute over the exotic rhythm of drummer Victor Lewis. Wolper's voice is very much an ensemble instrument—as opposed to the singer standing out front—with a good deal of fluid scatting that slips sinuously around the flute.

"Grey, Not Blue," a Wolper-penned tune and an extraordinarily soulful selection, wallows in the blues in front of Ken Filiano's fat bass lines and Ron Affif's delicate guitarlines; while Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" has the bass/guitar/voice meshing beautifully, making the song sound like it was written just for Andrea Wolper. Another original, "Not Sleeping in your Arms," is a dark, hard-hearted (with reason, I suppose) highlight, sad and tinted with bitterness, like something Billie Holiday might have written and sung.

Andrea Wolper is a new name to me, but she's come up with one of the strongest and most interesting vocal efforts of the year.

Track Listing: Dancing on the Ceiling; You and the Night and the Music; Grey; Not Blue; Nigh Time Was My Mother; Crazy Love; Rendezvous in Providence; Today; Not sleeping in Your Arms; Little Suzie's Humming; Moanin'; Small Day Tomorrow; I Like You; You're Nice.

Personnel: Andrea Wolper: vocals and arrangements; Ron Affif: guitar; Ken Filiano: bass; Victor Lewis: drums on 2 & 4; Jamey Haddad: drums (7,9,11); Frank London: trumpet/flugelhorn; Lou Marini: flute.

Title: The Small Hours | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Varis One.Jazz

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